The Ultimate Hike In Arches National Park: Delicate Arch
What To Expect
The hike up to Delicate Arch was very different than what we were expecting. When you pull into the parking lot you will see lots of cars. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Arches National Park. There is a viewpoint just past the first parking lot but it is not much of a view. The hike is challenging and although the signs stress the difficulty, many still venture up, unprepared.
About The Arch
Delicate Arch is likely one of the most photographed arches in the world. It has also become very popular with the instagram crowd. The arch is about 46 feet tall and 32 feet wide. This iconic arch can be seen on the license plate for the state of Utah. Once at the top you will likely need to stand in line to get a pic. Be sure to have someone with you to take the pic or you can ask one of the many observers to snap it for you.
Getting To The Trailhead
From the Visitors Center you will drive about 12 miles and then turn right towards Wolfe Ranch, you will see signs before you get to the turn. After you turn right you will drive another1.2 miles before turning left at Wolfe Ranch/Delicate Arch. You will see 2 parking lots, one on the right for RV’s and large vehicles and one on the left for cars. There are pit toilets near Wolfe Ranch. You can stop and see the petroglyphs and a quick peak at Wolfe Ranch before setting off on the trail. The morning is ideal to hike up, it’s not as hot and there are fewer people.
If you try to arrive an hour before sunset, not only will you not get a parking spot, you wouldn’t likely make it to the arch in time to get a picture anyway. Arrive 2 hours before sunset if you want to view it from the arch. If you are staying for sunset, have a light to get back down.
After your visit to Wolfe Ranch you will easily see the trail for Delicate Arch. The trail starts out with a very small ascent and quickly turns very steep. You get a bit of a break before it gets steep again. The rock face is the toughtest part of this hike. This is the part of the trail that will make you question why you’re doing this. Be sure to take breaks and remember you are hiking at elevation. There is no shade at all on this part of the trail and in the summer could be dangerous in the middle of the day. Many think it will be easier coming down but it’s just as tough. Be sure to follow the cairns to help you stay on the most direct route up the rock face.
Once you get to the top of the rock face, the trail becomes a little more “flat”. It will feel more like a hike than a climb. Right before you get to the top the trail will start to narrow. There is a somewhat steep drop off on the left as you go up. You will see a “window” on the right and you can catch a glimpse of the arch here but you want to continue up the hill.
Eventually you will round the corner and see all the people, you can see it when you get to the top but you will need to climb over a rock “wall”to get a closer look at better pics. Be very careful, you will notice the bowl on the right, stay on the left as you approach the arch for better footing.
Tips For Hiking Delicate Arch
Sunset is very popular for photographers to take pictures at the arch. If you plan on staying after dark you will need a headlamp of heavy duty light to guide you back down. It’s pitch black on the trail and your phone light or a regular flashlight will not be sufficient. Make sure to bring plenty of water with you. This is a very challenging hike and you will need to take a break and rehydrate as you go along. Proper footwear will make this hike better. If you are trying to do this hike in the wrong footwear you will regret it.
Delicate Arch was one of the highlights of our time in Utah and shouldn’t be missed.
For tips on when to visit, see our guide on the best time to visit Arches National Park, or our month specific guide for June.